I wrote an article on my marriage last month. It went viral, and people from all over the world sent me comments, personal stories and questions. Questions like: “What’s your secret?” and “How do you make your marriage work so well?”
I’m no expert, and my marriage is far from perfect, but I think I’ve come up with five things that make us work. They all happen to begin with “F”:
I’m sure some past and present neighbours of ours would have put money on us being at the brink of divorce a few times, judging by the noise-level at our house. We do a lot of things well, and one of those is fighting. We could be Italian, really.
Okay, we have toned it down a lot since we’ve had kids, and we also don’t fight like that often. But when we do, well, we do it properly. We rarely bicker or squabble or peck at each other with nasty words, but we’re not afraid of saying (or shouting) what we think.
And why is this a secret to our marital success? Well, because we let it out, because we give it to each other straight, because we get angry: the stuff that we fight about doesn’t poison us. We calm down, we get over it, and we move on. A lot of the time our fights have a recurring theme, as they do with all couples, but we don’t drag it around with us day after day. And most of all, we balance our loudness with love and laughter: lots of both. Our children see that too, and they learn that fighting sometimes is a normal part of love, but what happens next is the important part.
This is a biggie. And a toughie. We practice forgiveness. I say practice because it is just that; it takes a lot of practice. We forgive each other over and over again, daily, sometimes hourly. We forgive each other for being human, for being flawed, for finding it hard to forgive.
This is different than forgetting. I don’t think we forget. Everything that we have been through and struggled with has built the foundations of our relationship deeper and wider. So we don’t forget, but we do forgive as often as we need to. We give each other grace and we try again.
This may sound trite—in fact, it probably is—but we are honestly each other’s best friend. I have girl-friends and boy-friends and couple-friends and so does he. They are precious to me. I value the time we each spend on our own and with our own friends. But if I could pick anyone to watch a movie with or share a meal with or just hang out with it would be him. We just enjoy each other’s company.
That doesn’t mean we like all the same things or agree on everything (or even most things), but we are interested in each other and we learn from each other and we support each other in our different passions and pursuits, even when we don’t always share the same enthusiasm.
Our friendship is like a pair of comfy track-pants that you spend all day looking forward to slipping into when you get home. We know each other, we get each other and we genuinely like each other.
But we’re also friends with benefits. And that brings us to the proverbial F you might have been expecting.
Fucking (with feeling).
Marriage is not something many of us equate with a fulfilling sex life these days. There are countless jokes and just as many sad stories about married couples and their lack of lust.
I was recently interviewed by Laurie Handlers, author of the book and podcast show “Sex and Happiness”. She mentioned that monogamous marriage was one of her least discussed subjects. These days, she said, many people seem to be exploring anything but this more traditional relationship; if marriage is the “norm,” we are interested in anything but.
Normal is boring, predictable. It’s not sexy. Well, my normal is.
Making love is one thing. Tenderness and gazing deeply into one another’s eyes and taking it slow has its place. And we do that. But we also fuck—with feeling. We have sex to enjoy sex, not only because we love each other.
The quality of sex we are having is a barometer for the state of our relationship. Having said that, there are seasons to our sex life. Sometimes we are hot for each other to the point of distraction, and sometimes sex is on the back-burner. It can be wild or gentle, naughty or sweet, familiar or surprising.
But if it becomes routine, if we start taking each other for granted, if we become lazy and go through the motions, then it starts to distance us from each other instead. Then we become that “married couple”. So we try to stay open, to communicate honestly about sex and where we’re at with it, to care for each other’s needs. And we never, ever fake it.
Above all, we just have fun when we’re naked together. We laugh. We never take ourselves too seriously. Which brings me to the last F:
We have been through a lot of serious stuff together. Stuff that might make many couples call it a day. We have wept together and despaired together. We have been to some dark places together. But we’ve never been without fun for long.
I think, of all the things on this list, this has been our saving grace. We can be silly together. We can laugh together. We can get drunk together. We can play pirate games with our four-year old together. We can sing along in the car at the top of our voices together.
We remember that there isn’t much point if you can’t have a bit of fun, and we remind each other when we forget this.
There are a thousand other little things that make us work, and thrive, even through the ‘worse’ of our ‘for better or worse’ vows.
In the end, I can’t say or even know for sure what the exact secret to our good marriage is. It’s a bit like an amazing dish we’ve made and are never quite able to repeat because we weren’t writing down what we added or did along the way. But whatever we did, we did it with love and these five Fs and it just worked.
Author: Khara-Jade Warren
Editor: Caroline Beaton